I don’t know what I expected to feel like when I came back from Israel. As I have discussed here, the decision to leave was a tough one, but I ultimately feel that I made the right decision in choosing Nepal over other options. Still, this was such a huge year for me in terms of exploring Judaism and Zionism, being independent and working through challenges on my own that I guess I assumed that coming back to the United States would feel different.
Two weeks after returning to the US from Israel, life keeps humming forward. There are graduate school applications to finish, so many things to buy for Nepal, and friends and family to see. I left Israel in a near panic that there were so many sights I didn’t see, people I didn’t say goodbye to, and oh so many unanswered questions. And yet now, a mere two weeks after leaving, it feels like my life is just business as usual.
But the questions pop up in little, unexpected ways. Do I bring my newly beloved Koren Shabbat siddur with me to shul on Saturday, or use the Siddur Sim Shalom that is there? Do I take the Saturday appointment at the travel clinic to stay on schedule with my rabies shots, or insist they go off schedule and get one on Friday? And in answering these questions, I’m starting to feel that this is exactly the point of spending a year in Israel.
The goal is not to have all the answers, but to have all the questions. G-d renamed Jacob Israel because he wrestled with the angel of G-d; Israel is about the wrestling, and about not being afraid to take on insurmountable questions and struggle with them until dawn.
I told my campers repeatedly this summer that I think disagreement is the healthiest thing that can happen to the Jewish community. We don’t need to agree on what to do with the West Bank, what it means to have “A Jewish State”, or even who makes the best bagels. Being stuck with these conflicts and questions is what keeps us engaged and keeps us coming back to the table. If you know you disagree with your friend about something you think is important, you will continue to discuss it, and you will not become complacent.
I think the same goes for my relationship with Israel. I don’t need to feel like a completely different person all at once. I can let the changes show through in little moments of my life where I question a decision I may have once made easily.
The friends I made this year were amazing, the places I davened beautiful, the food delicious and the challenges nearly intractable. And now they are part of me forever. It is with both sadness and joy that I shut down Beit Deena and move back to Chronicles of a JMIT.
I wish you all a healthy, happy new year, and I’ll see you on the sweet side!